You know the feeling.
You know the look of disdain from a person who could be offering help, but instead offers hurt.
You know the whisper that clearly is speaking harm when it is hope that is needed.
You know the directly spoken criticism, and the obvious cold stares. The lack of compassion and care.
People in this world can be downright brutal, especially to those caring for children with special needs. And sadly these people can be total strangers, or they can be those closest to us.
How can we respond to the hurt caused by others in a way that honors God? Is there a way we can respond to make the situation better, not worse, for all of us?
Put on thick skin
Putting on thick skin means not taking ugly stares or words so personally. It means not letting them get to you. Water off a duck’s back. (Or I like- “I’m rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!”)
I have found the best way to deflect hurtful words is to cling to what I know is true. I can think about the other person- who is usually speaking out of ignorance- and try and offer them grace. Their judgements are usually lies- and according to scripture, lies come from Satan Himself. Our best defense then is to cling to Christ and put forth His truth, His word, over the situation. It also helps me to think that I’m probably not the only person this person is mean to- and that makes it their problem, not mine.
Tune out the world
We are called to be in this world, but not of this world. And this world can be a pretty scary place. The world is filled with pressure to be perfect, pressure to have and be more than we are. If our eyes and ears are tuned in to all of that, we get beat down and discouraged. Discontentment drowns our spirit, and we can’t see past our failures shortcomings. And even more dangerous, we can get to where can’t see past our child’s failures and shortcomings.
Tuning out the “big” world means treasuring the “little world” God has put me in. I like to say, “draw a circle around us” and find contentment again. Find thanksgiving again. Find peace again. When I tune out the world, I find that I love what God has placed in my little world.
You have assigned me my portion and my cup. You have made my lot secure. The boundaries have fallen for me in pleasant places. Psalm 16:5-6
Cling to Christ
Coming through Holy Week, and meditating on the week before Jesus’ crucifixion, I realized how much hate and cruelty Jesus withstood. They were brutal to Jesus too. What can we learn from how he handled pain so much worse than mine?
When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate. He entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:23
I love the words “He entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly.” The dictionary says that to entrust means “to give someone the responsibility of doing something or caring for something else or someone else.” So if I entrust myself to God, then I am giving Him the responsibility of doing something or caring for me. It means I give over control of my care to Him and trust Him to protect and to provide for all my needs as He has promised.
When babies are scared, they turn and press their face into their mother, clinging to her for protection. I want to do the same- turning away from the scary world, pressing hard into Christ, and clinging to Him for my protection and provision.
Jesus did as He had taught His followers in Matthew 5:39, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” He also told His disciples that the world would reject them as they rejected Him. We can expect to get struck, and we can find the strength in Christ to turn our cheek the other way.
The way we live out our lives is a constant example for others to see. The way we parent our children is also a constant example. And the way we handle stress- both from within our current circumstances and from the outside hurtful looks and words of others- can be a witness to many.
Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. 1 Peter 3:15
Live such good lives among the pagans that though they may accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us. 1 Peter 2:12
So we can put on our thick skin and head out into the world, ready to tune out its hurt, cling to Christ, and shine for Him as we love the precious ones He’s given us.